9.23.2010

33. The Ludo Truck at Domaine LA’s First Tasting


You know I love Sundays. Most recently I had an exceptional one. And one that involved a lot of decadence and, in varying ways, a lot of food truckness. It all began early on in the day when Maggie and I realized that the final episode of The Great Food Truck Race would be airing later that night and that they would be marathoning the season throughout the day. We had only seen the first episode and kind of forgot to keep up – so, DVR: set. Woo hoo!

12:30pm – Watching episode 2 of The Great Food Truck Race. Getting excited about food trucks, in general. Even more excited about Ludo Truck being at Domaine LA’s first wine tasting in a mere hour and a half.

1:30pm – Hell. Wanting to watch more food truckery, as the television is quite addictive, but must hustle to Domaine LA for tasting and Ludo’s truck chicken.

The scene in Domaine LA: sipping, crunching and mingling.

2pm – At Domaine LA. Right on time. Chris, Maggie and I all have our first glass of bubbly. This was a 2008 Francois Pinon Vouvray, Non-Dosé, Methode Champenoise Chenin Blanc. This was to be my favorite of the three. I actually bought a bottle to take home at the end of the affair.

2:45pm – Second tasting while keeping an ever watchful eye on the line situation out at Ludo Truck. Looks okay. Doable. Currently tasting the 2009 La Grange Tiphaine Rosé Rosa Rosam, Pet'Nat Blend of Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Grolleau, Cot (aka Malbec). Hmm. This one is not as much my style. Billed as dry read as jammy to me. I think this was Chris’ favorite, however.

3:15pm – Last pour. Number three: 2009 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Salamino di S.Croce. We really got bigger and bigger throughout our journey in bubbles. This one was downright esoteric. It dares you. It begins so tart you pucker, but later becomes round and soft.

Check out Jill’s words on these wines here.

3:30pm – Ludo Truck O’ Clock. The line was short. The shortest it had been all day. Go time! Oh, and did I mention that, as Maggie and I were among the first 20 people to purchase tickets to the tasting, we received little coupons that entitled us to a FREE 2-piece chicken meal with a side from Ludo-land? Yes. That mere $12 gave us three champagnes and full tummies. Jealous much?


Okay, now. Time to chat about chicken.

As you know, I’ve tasted Ludo’s fried chicken one time prior to this banner day. At the Foundry, with Eric Greenspan. I loved it. And really, today was no different. I still loved it. 

 

 

A great thing about having Maggie and Chris with me: we were able to order everything off the (already small and precise) menu. I went for a Provencal Pepitte: Juicy boneless chicken balls prepared over three days. Infused with rosemary and herbs de provence and a Chicken Strip: white meat, chicken breast strip. These both were complimented with the Piquillo pepper sauce and served with a side of Ludo Slaw: A freshly hand-sliced concoction of savoy cabbage, celery, red onion, chives, and Italian parsley leaves dressed to the nines with a jalapeño kick.

 

 
Note the moist towelettes! 

 

Both Maggie and Chris also ordered the Honey-Glazed Garlic Wings and Perfect Fries (hand-peeled and hand-cut). Maggie freaked out over those fries. In fact, I believe she said, “Upon reading the menu claiming “Perfect Fries” I was skeptical. But I would have to agree that they accomplished a pretty perfect marriage between a kettle cooked potato chip and French fry. No grease. All crunch!” 

 

 


I thought my chicken strip was just fine; clean, crunchy, succinct, if not extraordinarily exciting. I had ordered the Piquillo pepper sauce on the salesgirl’s suggestion, but I really wished I had the Béarnaise sauce for that one. But let me tell you about that Provencal Pepitte… Holy delicious! It was like all of Thanksgiving wrapped up in a little ball. It didn’t need any sauce and every element, flavor and texture just danced together brilliantly. Chris thought, “The wing was the best (and the messiest).  Delicious marinade.  I was not the only one licking my fingers after this one. No sauce needed at all." And we all loved that slaw. It was inspired and had a surprising zing to it. Cut through all the fried-ness of everything else.

 

Kudos to Ludo! (I felt I had to do that.)

 

Tipsy with lovely bubbles and full of yummy deliciousness. Sigh.

 

And the icing on our perfect Sunday, you ask? We then headed home to re-boot and watch all of The Great Food Truck Race episodes. Then we were off to a bar on Hollywood Boulevard to watch the live airing of the season finale with the posses from both Grill ‘Em All Truck and Nom Nom Truck! I congratulate both finalists for a race well played. It was also a proud moment for our fair city and our awesome truckitude.

 

And then there was sleep.

Ludo Truck on Urbanspoon

9.16.2010

32. The Manila Machine


I have been meaning to get to this truck for quite some time. I have followed co-owner, Nastassia Johnson’s blog, Let Me Eat Cake for a while, and like her style. Additionally, her truck hit the streets scant few days prior to one of my first Dinner at Eights, which lamentably resulted in Nastassia not being able to attend. I’ll get her there eventually.

Arguably the first food bloggers to man a food truck, Johnson and Marvin Gapultos (Burnt Lumpia) are serving up the City of Angels Filipino food on wheels – and, in doing so, filling a notable hole in our city’s wide range of cultural cuisines. And this, my friends, would be The Manila Machine.

So when Doug told me that they would be The Frosted Cupcakery’s Thursday truck of the week I was pretty pleased.


We sauntered on up to the window of the truck around 1pm to find the sprightly and enchanting Nastassia greeting us with a winsome smile. And but a moment later I was also introduced to the equally personable Marvin. They were both so welcoming that I kind of just wanted to hop into the truck and kick it with them for a few hours. But I was already holding up the line that was forming behind me. And so…


I asked them to lay it on me: serve me what you want me to eat. And here we go.

Pork Belly and Pineapple Adobo ($6)

This was chunks of pork belly braised in a rich, sweet and tangy sauce of vinegar, soy, and pineapples. Served over steamed jasmine rice. Although we all know my fruit drama, this type of situation is in my "happily working on it" category. I really enjoyed this dish. When I plunged my fork into the rice I was pleasantly surprised to find all of the yummy sauce which which to stir everything up. The sweet and the savory played perfectly together here and those few little scallions cut up on top actually added a lovely fresh and crisp accent.

A trio of sliders. From left to right: The Original Manila Dip, Longganisa, Tapa ($2.50 each)

The Original Manila Dip is shredded chicken adobo and caramelized onions on a pan de sal roll. Served with an adobo dipping sauce. I tasted this one last, and perhaps as a result it was the least interesting to me. It was solid, yes. It was good, yes. I love dipping sauces, yes. I found no fault with this slider, but I simply didn't find it as compelling as the two that graced my palate prior. I will say that I really loved the way the bread (which I just loved, anyway) held everything together, in addition to sopping up the dipping sauce.

The Longganisa is sweet pork and garlic sausage, caramelized onions, arugula, and mango jam on a pan de sal roll. I loved this. I loved that sausage. It was smoky and a little sweet - to me, ever so slightly reminiscent of a good chorizo, but a bit milder. And hey folks, I even like the mango jam!

The Tapa is sweet calamansi beef, achara slaw, and spicy sriracha mayo on a pan de sal roll. This was Doug's favorite. In fact, we are fortunate enough to have a Doug sound bite: "This was a dynamic combination of sweet and sour that provided an unexpected (and welcome) bite." I agree, this is also fantastic.


I think we were supposed to get Lumpia as well but we forgot. This was a good thing as both Doug and I were perfectly sated. AND now I have something new to try upon my return. And return I shall. Thanks for a great lunch, guys!

Hey! You should follow them on Twitter!

9.15.2010

Bat Out of Hell


Mercury just got out of Retrograde the other day. Although it’s not like me to know or care about such things, this time I am truly relieved. Things have been all manner of wonky.

Let’s see, a week or two ago I got a basketball beamed at the side of my head for attempting to pet another person’s dog. Scary. A few days later my next-door neighbor’s house was broken into. Creepy. Then, less than a week ago, both Maggie and I had our cell phones stolen from right under our noses. Lame and sad. I’ve also had some unusual interactions with various players in my life that have been anywhere from curious to surprising to unsettling. Confusing.

So I’d like to chalk it up to good old Mercury and whatnot.

One great thing that all this strangitude has generated is my sudden re-appearance in the kitchen. This has been a Summer of eating out far more than in and it’s time to rein it in. So I’ve been hitting the Sunday market with much more regularity and getting all stirred up for Fall foods.

Hell, some people get geeked about Fall fashion and the September issue of Vogue. Me? I get geeked about Brussels sprouts, sage, mustard greens and Winter squash. Oooh, and brown butter. My brain starts swirling with thoughts of wild boar lasagna, braised short ribs, hearty stews and the like.

And I do enjoy playful scarves and layering with my wardrobe. So this time of year is really a win win for me.

Last year around this time I was sort of obsessed with meatloaf. I’ve not really had much of it in my life and became curious about it. I particularly became fixated with the meatloaf at Ammo. I was eating there a lot at the time with Uncle Dougertons and ordered the meatloaf quite often. Ammo seemed to be lauded for their turkey meatloaf for quite sometime. Their meatloaf was said to be Al Pacino’s favorite.

Although they have a new chef now, with a beautiful menu that changes almost daily, I haven’t yet seen meatloaf on the menu. I can only imagine it will pop up at some point. Until then my mission prevails.

The only solid thing I was ever able to extract from the prior chef is that he did not use breadcrumbs in his recipe. Well, hells bells. Almost EVERY SINGLE recipe in the world for meatloaf calls for breadcrumbs. The ones that don’t use breadcrumbs mention substituting granola. Gross. So I figured eggs would work as a good adhesive - particularly as turkey has so little fat to glue the elements, and it self, together. I also used a TON of veggies. Why not? 

Meatloaf: Version 1

Meatloaf: Version 2

Both recipes I tested were pretty tasty, Chris and I agreed. The first one had no breadcrumbs and the second did. Otherwise they were pretty similar save for a few tweaks here and there. I used heirloom tomatoes for the sauce, which was rich and really very wonderful. Ultimately, we agreed that the softer, breadcrumb-free version was much tastier. All of the flavors and textures of the vegetables made for a creative and inspired meatloaf experience.

I was recently telling a friend about my meatloaf adventures and he came up with a very good idea. He was lamenting that turkey meatloaf is no fun as turkey is such a mild, lean protein. He suggested that, rather than buying ground turkey from the store, get a whole turkey ground to order from the butcher. Clever. And I actually added some mild-Italian sausage to my recipe to aid in the flavor boost department.

So, as I sit in my big, brown chair, in my bathrobe, with my replacement cell phone nearby, thinking (and writing) about foods that envelop one in warmth, comfort and security, I can see everything calming as we move into Fall.

I’m reining it in.



Bat Out of Hell Turkey Meatloaf

Serves 6-8

1 tbsp unsalted butter
¾ cup minced green onions
1 ½ cup minced white onions
½ cup minced carrot
¼ cup minced garlic
¾ cup minced crimini mushrooms
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
dash of nutmeg
2 bay leaves
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup ketchup
½ lb mild-Italian sausage
1 1/4 lb ground turkey meat

Combine first six ingredients and sauté until moisture has evaporated, then cool. In a large bowl mix salt, pepper, spices and eggs. Add ketchup, blend thoroughly and add turkey, sausage and vegeatable mixture. Mix with your hands and form loaf. Put in greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.


Sauce

2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 shallots
½ cup minced red peppers
1 cup ketchup
1 sprig of thyme
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
2 tsp minced garlic
2 cups chicken stock
2 heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

In a heavy pan, melt 1 tbsp butter and sauté shallots, red peppers, thyme, salt and pepper over medium heat until soft. Add chicken stock and simmer, uncovered, until reduced. Add tomatoes and ketchup and bring to a slow simmer. Cook covered for 20 minutes. Stir in remaining butter and season with thyme.

9.05.2010

A Wolf By Any Other Name.

 Dining table, kitchen, guests and Carson Daly's film crew.

Last night I found myself deep within the Wolvesden; at the home of Craig Thornton. Formerly at Bouchon and currently private chef to Nicholas Cage, Thornton, or Wolvesmouth, his handle, has given birth to an underground, intimate supper club at his home, high up the Hollywood Hills. With only his “crazy friend, Cortez” to assist, Thornton serves eight guests between 12-16 courses each week.

The intriguing thing about these dinners, aside from the visually, stunning, exceptional and entirely conceptual food, is the beauty within its structure. Firstly, these are BYOB. With the exception of water, you’re on your own. Second, there are no servers. Cortez (I like this guy) does a lot of the putting down and picking up of the plates, but everyone chips in if so compelled. And really, after about course number six, one almost needs a reason to get up for a moment. Third, and most enchanting, diners are given an envelope at evening’s end to pay what they deem appropriate. It’s like the dining equivalent of the Summerhill School. It’s food communism.

This is beautiful to me. It is simultaneously the most exclusive and inclusive environment I can imagine. Plus, that view. That house. I felt like I was in a Michael Mann film.

Although I have nothing to compare it to as it my first time attending, I imagine this was an unusual night, even for the Wolf. Carson Daly’s crew was there, filming. While I found the lighting offensive, both in general and for my nighttime makeup, it was great for shooting the food. Anyway, everyone was pleasant and added an (even more) interesting vibe to the affair.

I will not do a dish by dish breakdown. Those of you who read me regularly know that would turn this post into a Tolstoy novel. Plus, I can’t think of a single person that shouldn’t/wouldn’t attend one of these dinners for themselves (not that the menu would be the same). Admittedly, I rarely even write about dining out or other people’s food all that much anyway. But I do think this evening deserves mad ink. Hell, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head all day.

I guess it’s time to discuss the food, no?

Menu.

This man loves food. Actually, this man loves a lot. But I can really see his love for food and all that that entails: the Earth, animals, vegetation, growth, energy, life, beauty, change, history, people. He is welcoming, interested and irreverent. I guess I’m telling you that I think Craig is an artist. Oof.

Let's do this.

chicken liver. poached pear. compressed asian pear. pear gel. brioche.

 
corn soup. pickled chili. crab.


clam. mussel. tobanjan. clam mussel jus.


primal. bone marrow. roasted sweetbread. pickled onion. chive.

tomato. bacon powder. bacon. baby romaine. various tomatoes. blue basil.

arctic char. beet. olive oil.  tarragon.

 pork belly. cornbread buttermilk puree. huckleberry. chervil.

turbot. whole roasted. its own sauce.


peach.

rabbit saddle. rabbit glazed chanterelle. lobster mushroom. doug fir. vermouth.


pork cheek. black vinegar. kecap manis. chili. chewy rice noodle. pluot.


ants on a log. celery gin ice. peanut powder. raisin leather.

boar. red wine. orange. tagliatelle. gremolata. pecorino.


mexican wedding cake. bitter caramel banana. cajeta. nopales glass. lime styrofoam. mexican chocolate.


doughnut ice cream. coffee pop rocks.


Yes. You just saw 15 courses of food. And you know what? Everything was sublime. 

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  To me, this means the names of things do not matter, only what things are. Wolvesmouth. Craig. Beauty. Food. Art. 

I only hope we can join forces at some point for some fun kitchen concoctions...

9.01.2010

Disambiguation AKA The Egg; Part 2


Right now, the egg to me is not unlike the number 23 to Robert Anton Wilson: a clustering illusion. It would seem that, in my sphere, most incidents and events are directly connected to eggs. They are everywhere. And much like Wilson’s number 23, I continue to try to explore the rationalization behind this omnipresent egg.

I have thought about fragility and beauty: Fabergé. I have worked with bruises, breaks, repair and; deconstruction: Humpty Dumpty. I have considered love and truffles inside of a brunch. And then recently, within the course of my day, I encountered two chickens, Wilhelmina (Willa) and Sparkasse (Sparky). They reside at a house I visited. They roam free with two big dogs. And a pond full of Koi. In the middle of LA. I was taught how to properly hold a chicken. I was even given two eggs from each one. Willa’s were more rotund while Sparky’s were a bit thinner and longer.

So there I was. Holding chickens one minute and their eggs the next. It seemed so poetic and so obvious. These eggs. From these chickens.

I knew immediately I was going to do a soft scramble with fresh herbs. I needed to keep the integrity of these eggs. I needed to taste these eggs.

Maggie and I made a new friend recently who, for reasons unbeknownst to either of us, was hell-bent on preparing potato dumplings at our house. And it would take two days. Let’s just chalk it up to this late Summer bubble and leave it at that. So on the first day our new friend, Patrick, prepared the dumplings. This involved boiling the potatoes, putting them through a ricer, forming the dumplings with flour, letting them cool, so on and so forth.

The second day we cooked the dumplings and ate them. It all seemed so ceremonial. Such process. I knew that I wanted to use my special eggs to serve alongside these dumplings. 

Not to downplay Patrick or his dumplings, but Willa and Sparky’s beautiful eggs completely stole the show. They were vibrant in color, nutty and bold in flavor and ever so delicate on the tongue. They were simple, clean and elegant. As I ate my eggs I thanked the girls for their gift. I also wondered what this part of my egg framework meant.

I then realized that this was to be the last stage of my egg-ness. For now. I feel that I have resolved the conflict of the egg’s ambiguity. I discovered at the end of this bubble, this egg, that in all of its undemanding refinement, this Summer can simply be my Summer, and an egg can simply be an egg. 

Sparky & Willa's Eggs


Soft Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Herbs

Serves 2


4 fresh eggs
2 tbsp milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp butter, in small pieces
1 tsp chives, chopped
1 tbsp basil, mandolined
1 tbsp mint, chopped

Beat eggs with milk, 1 tbsp butter, salt and pepper in a small bowl, with a fork, until combined, with a few big bubbles. 

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat; once hot, add remaining butter. Once butter is melted and foamy, add eggs and pause; let the eggs begin to set up before you start nudging away at them. 

Add the basil, mint and half of the chives.

Using a wooden spoon or spatula, begin push your eggs once from the outside to the center of the pan and pause again; count to 5 if you must, before continuing with another push. Continue in this manner around the pan as if you were trying draw spokes of a wheel through your eggs with your spatula, pausing for 5 seconds after each push. Go around the pan as many times as needed, until your eggs in the center are ribbony damp pile — it should look only 75 percent cooked. Use your spoon or spatula to break up this pile into smaller chunks — to taste. Your eggs should now look almost 90 percent cooked.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pile the scrambled eggs onto a plate. Sprinkle with an additional sprinkle of salt, a grind of black pepper and remaining chives. Eat immediately.